While drones are primarily associated with military use, this does not eliminate the fact that they can have peaceful applications as well. The consulting company Deloitte estimates that in 2015, there will be 300,000 drones sold for non-military use. This will push the number of active devices to over a million with a market value of over 200 USD. The primary uses of these drones will be for observation and small parcel delivery.

However, new applications for unmanned aerial vehicles are still being explored. The UAE government recently concluded its “Drones for Good” competition, organized to  expand the applications of drone technology for use in everyday life. The Polish team AeroAtena (created by Tomasz Muszyński, Ilona Muszyńska, Kaja Muszyńska, Andrzej Majka, Rafał Nowak and Karol Borys) participated in the international category of the competition. Their Robolifeguard entry made it to the semi-finals of the competition.

The Robolifeguard project proposed creating a drone to save people stranded at sea or washed overboard. The device would be equipped with floatation devices which would let the drone land on water. Survivors would then hang on to the buoyant drone via special handles, increasing their chances of survival. An integrated communications system would also allow survivors to communicate with rescue services until they arrived.

Zortrax, a producer of integrated 3D printing systems, helped create the Robolifeguard drone prototype and also re-designed some of its elements. The model was printed out using the Zortrax M200 printer with two different types of filaments: the deformation-resistant Z-ULTRAT and the translucent Z-GLASS. AeroAtena ultimately submitted this prototype as their entry for the Drones for Good competition.

“We began as a tech start-up, so we want to continue to support similar initiatives. We accepted the proposal by AeroAtena right away because this was a unique opportunity participate in a fascinating project that explored new, life-saving applications for both drones and 3D printing. Not only did we prepare the print itself, but we also provided the help of our designers in the model’s processing,” said Karolina Bołądź, COO Zortrax.While Robolifeguard reached the semi-finals of the Dubai competition, its creators plan to develop their concept further for use by lifeguards and coastguard services.

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